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Obama Vs McCain: Senior Citizens

By James Donahue

Statistics show that more elder Americans go to the polls on election day than other age groups. Because they comprise a large voting block, they control the way legislators deal with issues of interest to the older set. Retired folks don’t only vote, but they have their own lobby organization. It is called the American Association for Retired People or AARP.

American seniors are primarily interested in preserving the comfort and security their government and society has promised them throughout their lives. This includes maintaining the federal Social Security program, affordable health care, protecting their investments and adequate protection from crime.

So how are this year’s presidential candidates campaigning for the senior vote?

Democratic candidate Barack Obama calls for the protection of Social Security at all costs. He seeks to keep the program solvent and viable not only for today’s seniors, but for the future. He also opposes raising the retirement age, or privatizing Social Security. He suggests that a way to help keep Social Security solvent, if he can get bipartisan approval, a plan could be implemented so that workers making over $250,000 a year could contribute a little more for the best interests of all.

To meet health care needs, Obama and Biden want the government to negotiate for lower drug prices for the Medicare program and allow seniors to import safe prescription drugs from other countries. They want to streamline and strengthen Medicare that includes eliminating subsidies to the private insurance Medicare Advantage program.  They call for open lists of costs of drugs to help seniors decide which plans to use, and they want to improve the quality of elder care and reform the financing of long term patient care.

The Democratic plan includes a revision of the old bankruptcy laws so they again protect workers and retirees instead of just banks and lending institutions. Obama wants to eliminate income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000 a year, require full disclosure of company pension investments so workers know where they stand before they retire, and even create automatic workplace pensions. For seniors that wish or need to stay in the workplace, Obama says he will work to strengthen the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The Obama-Biden plan also includes more money for Low Income Home Energy Assistance to help the elderly keep up with their winter heating bills

In contrast, the 72-year-old Republican candidate, John McCain has made conflicting statements about what he wishes to do with the Social Security system. He stated in one speech that the system was “a disgrace.” At another time he said he supported privatizing Social Security, later he said he doesn’t wish to privatize it, but later said again he would privatize the system. It is obvious that he has no plan on his platform for Social Security. The idea of privatizing is tied into proposed investing in Wall Street, much like the 401K plans.

McCain has a plan to charge many senior higher prices for their prescription drugs at a time when more Americans are fighting to meet rising drug costs. He also has ignored proposals to end the Medicare prohibition from negotiating bulk discount prices from drug manufacturers.

Unlike Obama, McCain has not proposed a cut in taxes for seniors, but his website calls for “comprehensive, pro-market health care and Medicare reforms to reduce health care costs and control increases in premiums.” The site lacks any description of how McCain expects to accomplish this.

That’s about all the McCain platform has to say about the plight of America’s elderly. We consequently consider the Obama plan as the best to meet their needs.